WEDDINGTON – After surviving a sudden cardiac arrest a few years ago, Karen Ledford felt like she needed to pay it forward.
On July 12, 2013, her husband, Eric, found her collapsed inside their Wesley Chapel home and rushed to get help. Two neighbors trained in CPR administered the lifesaving procedure until paramedics arrived with an automatic external defibrillator, which delivers an electrical shock to the heart and restores a regular heart rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest.
Ledford, who works as a dental hygienist and teaches a class on medical emergencies in the dentist office, spent 13 days recovering at Carolinas Medical Center in Pineville before she was sent home with her own defibrillator, which she calls “Sparky.”
The incident left her charged with the desire to help others, so she decided to become a certified CPR instructor and pledged to use the funds from the classes and other donations to buy AEDs for nonprofits in the area.
The devices cost approximately $1,000 each and Ledford has purchased three so far. Her goal is to donate one every year.
In January, she gave one to Coltrane L.I.F.E. Center, an adult daycare facility in Concord, where she grew up. On Oct. 6, she donated two AEDs to Optimist Park in Weddington, during a ceremony attended by members of the local police department, Wesley Chapel Fire Department and Union County EMS who helped save her life.
Burke McKinney, chairman of the Wesley Chapel Weddington Athletic Association, said thousands of people use the sports fields, playground, batting cages, picnic area and other facilities at Optimist Park each year and the goal is to keep them safe. Having AEDs at the park, he said, makes that possible.
“This could definitely be a potential life-changer for someone here,” McKinney said.
According to the Red Cross, the average response time for first-responders once 911 is called is 8 to 12 minutes. However, for each minute defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival is reduced approximately 10 percent, making early use of an AED crucial.
Ledford hopes the AEDs at Optimist Park never have to be used, but if they do, she hopes the device saves someone’s life, just like it saved hers.
“That would be surreal,” Ledford said. “That would be the best blessing of a pay-it-forward situation ever.”